Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Copper Romp

Director Robert Aldrich probably had the best intentions when he tried to make a film of Joseph Wambaugh's raw cop saga The Choirboys in 1977, but the result -- apparently a deeply misguided attempt to replicate his success with The Dirty Dozen -- didn't seem to please anyone, most of all Universal Pictures, who found themselves with one of the most offensive, non-PC releases of the decade. The rampant dirty jokes, flat sitcom-style filming, S&M and orgy setpieces, racism, gay-bashing, and misogyny probably had something to do with it, and Wambaugh swore off Hollywood after its release. It's certainly different, though; you might want to keep an eye out for it on TV mainly due to the weird cast including Charle Durning, James Woods, Burt Young, Louis Gossett Jr., Perry King, Randy Quaid, Tim McIntire, Don Stroud, and Vic Tayback. The wild soundtrack is by regular Aldrich composer Frank De Vol (still most famous for his theme from The Brady Bunch), who mixes up funk, march music, dance pop, and straight-up orchestral work for a one-of-a-kind listening experience.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Sex Thief

One of the earliest and most interesting installments in the wave of big studio "erotic thrillers" that eventually swallowed up most of the '90s, 1984's Thief of Hearts doesn't get mentioned too often these days in the wake of bigger, more sensationalistic titles like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct; it's definitely a better film though and is, believe it or not, genuinely sexy. (It's also one of the very few Jerry Bruckheimer productions that won't induce migraines.) The story follows a bored married socialite who winds up having an affair with a swarthy cat burglar who, it just happens, is the same guy who breaks into her house and reads her diaries. Oops. The effective and wonderfully '80s score by German composer Harold Faltermeyer was his first big American gig and landed him some bigger future assignments including Beverly Hills Cop and Fletch. The soundtrack is also peppered with a few pop tunes including the semi-hit single (whose steamy music video got it shoved to late night play on MTV) and even an appearance from actress/singer Elizabeth "E.G." Daily (Better Off Dead).

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Don't Panic!

Here's another obscure musical goodie from the AIP vaults, this time with Les Baxter's hoppin' score for the post-nuke drive-in favorite, Panic in Year Zero, a rare directorial feature for star Ray Milland. Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont from Singin' in the Rain) and Frankie Avalon co-star in this grim look at the havoc unleashed on a Los Angeles family forced to run for the hills when the bomb drops, with utter social degradation soon following among the survivors. Les' score is mostly source cues (i.e., instrumental jukebox-style rock 'n' roll and jazz music) and robust dramatic cues, taken here from the complete isolated music and effects track (which means no dialogue, but you'll hear an occasional gunshot or screeching tire).

Link removed - score now commercially available.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Newley's Folly

After the success of his stage hit, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, some studio executives had the bright idea to greenlight an entire movie devoted to the personality of tunesmith Anthony Newley. Of course, with the relaxing censorship standards of the time, it was only natural to let him run wild in... an X-rated sex comedy? Sure, why not? After Dr. Strangelove, long, self-indulgent titles were all the rage, so poor theater marquee owners were thus stuck trying to spell Can Hieronymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? above theaters around the world. This 1969 commercial flop from Universal stars Newley as Hieronymous in a Fellini-inspired tale about a young man who pines for his true love while being led by "Goodtime Eddie Filth" (Milton Berle) through a string of women including Polyester Poontang, played by Joan Collins, of course. Very difficult to see now for obvious reasons; keep an eye out for late night cable screenings.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Saucy Jack

One of the more notorious horror films of the late '50s, the Baker & Berman version of Jack the Ripper presents a vicious take on the infamous Whitechapel killings with a style foreshadowing the imminent giallo craze, including a color insert climax in an elevator shaft that no viewer ever forgets. Joseph E. Levine released this one in the U.S. and decided to chuck out the British score by Stanley Black (currently available on CD), replacing it with the odd team of jazz composer Pete Rugolo (Thriller, Sanford and Son) and old school musical veteran Jimmy McHugh ("I'm in the Mood for Love"). As you might expect, the results are pretty fascinating...

Jack the Ripper (U.S. score)
1. Main Title (Jack The Ripper Theme)
2. Love Theme (Lowry Dates Ann)
3. Killed In The Elevator
4. Ann Is Chased

5. Ripper Kills Gateman
6. Mary Clarke Theme
7. To the Operating Room (And End Title)
8. Ripper Gets Mary Clarke
9. Ann And Mary
10. Chase The Hunchback
11. Barmaid Starts Home (And Can-Can Scene)
12. Ann Is Trapped

13. Kitty
14. Blood On My Hands (and End Cast)


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Mighty Pino

It's hard to believe Cannon Films managed to theatrically release this jawdropping 1983 version of Hercules, an Italian production from Luigi Cozzi featuring Lou Ferrigno, Brad Harris, Gianni Garko, lots of fighting tinker toys in the sky, and the always spectacular Sybil Danning, whose revealing outfits push the PG rating about as far as it can go. However, the rousing score by Pino Donaggio is pretty great, with a stirring main theme and some truly beautiful passages (especially the awesome "Baby Hercules") that rank among his finest.

[link removed - score now commercially available]

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Thursday, November 09, 2006


Generally regarded as one of the best cinematic treatments of its subject, 1968's The Charge of the Light Brigade from director Tony Richardson features a fascinating cast (David Hemmings, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Trevor Howard) and a beautiful, effective score by John Addison (Sleuth, Torn Curtain) that's never really been given its due. Perhaps of most interest to readers here is the theme song, an eerie, haunting, semi-psychedelic rendition of the famous poem performed by none other than Manfred Mann!

Link removed - commercial CD now available.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
1. The Charge Of The Light Brigade (Manfred Mann)
2. Main Title
3. The Six Hundred
4. Nolan's Theme
5. Waiting For The Charge
6. Go Gently
7. Sebastapol
8. War Fever
9. Across The Seas
10. Valley Of Death
11. First Kiss
12. Lady Scarlett's Ball
13. March On The Alma
14. After The Battle
15. Anger & Reflection
16. End Title

Basil Poledouris, R.I.P. You will be missed.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Imaginary Friends

The closest thing to a horror film by director Robert Altman, Images did a quick nosedive at the box office in 1972 and remains one of his most obscure and challenging films. This Repulsion-style trip-out stars Susannah York as a married writer plagued by terrifying hallucinations and murderous scenarios which may or may not be real, all underscored by John Williams' scary, experimental, and sometimes beautiful score. Williams and Altman reteamed the next year for the excellent and only marginally more mainstream The Long Goodbye.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Summer Dreams

And now back to Mr. Carlo Savina again for some more Italian library goodness, this time with a catchy 1979 collection called Summer Dreams. This limited LP contains several tracks he wrote for films and TV shows during that decade, including the first release of his theme for Mario Bava's Lisa and the Devil (here entitled "Theme for You").

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Music Scene

Here's another obscure, super-rare Italian library collection, this time courtesy of sword-and-sandal composer Franco Ferrara. It's a bit of a grab bag of styles and moods, as the cover obviously indicates, ranging from scary to peppy. Heck, it's got a track called "Giallo in Oriente," so how can you go wrong?

Music Scene
1. Mattino Nel Bosco
2. In Modo Pastorale
3. Danza Arcaica
4. Idillo Verde
5. La Conquista
6. Presgio Di Nubi
7. Dopo La Paura
8. Crescendo Ansioso
9. Fiesta Grande
10. Chita-Habanera
11. Paura Nella Casbah
12. Siesta Sueno
13. Fiaba Bolero
14. A Passo Doppio
15. Giallo In Oriente
16. Mare Hawajano

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